• Published 24th Sep 2014
  • 4,507 Views, 112 Comments

The Mare Behind the Mare - Eakin

Thrown into an entirely unfamiliar world of intrigue and politics, Princess Twilight finds herself struggling to adjust. Luckily, Rarity is there to help her adapt.

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Rarity and Celestia Have Tea


Rarity only barely fought back the urge to skip down the hallways of Canterlot Castle on her way to the small private study to which she’d been summoned. Not only would such an outburst be an unspeakable breach of decorum, but it would be just her luck to misplace a hoof mid-pirouette and go crashing into one of the priceless antiques that lined the walls. It wouldn’t do to arrive to an audience before a princess with shards of an ancient vase littering one’s mane.

Sometimes she had to stop and reflect on the fact that just a few years ago she wouldn’t have dreamed that one day she would need to specify which Princess with whom she happened to share a close personal relationship she might fail to impress. When such a notion had occurred to her for the first time, alone in the boutique’s workroom, she’d collapsed into what she felt was an exceptionally refined and proper fifteen-minute giggling fit. There was no time for that now though. Being slightly late to such a generous invitation would be nearly as great a faux pas as the destruction of an irreplaceable artefact, perhaps even greater.

Nopony who knew her would be surprised that she reached the doorway to Celestia’s chambers precisely when she meant to, despite the late notice and the fact she’d had to frantically search through three closets, each full to bulging with dresses and gowns to find the perfect outfit for such a momentous occasion. She simply hadn’t a thing to wear! But of course, she’d pulled together an ensemble as best she could and had every intention of making it work.

“Come in,” said Celestia’s voice an instant before Rarity’s hoof hit the door. How did she do that? With a wry smile, Rarity twisted the knob and opened the door to step into the quiet little chamber. Other ponies were surprised at how simply it was decorated, but Rarity knew better. In the time since she’d first met the Princess, she’d learned that even the simple quilt that adorned the bed, the faded throw pillows on the couch, the beat-up old desk, all of them had deeply personal stories and second meanings behind them. Perhaps when you’d lived as long as the Princess had, it was inevitable that you’d find commonalities in details that spanned centuries just by reflex. “Rarity. It’s a pleasure to see you again.”

“The pleasure is all mine, Celestia,” said Rarity. She had to suppress the little twinge in her mind at dropping her proper title, but Celestia insisted on such informalities in private. At least Rarity had been able to take the hint fairly quickly after only a few embarassing grovelling sessions; Celestia still hadn’t managed to beat the idea into Twilight’s mind despite over a decade of trying to do so.

“Join me outside?” asked Celestia. It was a non-question, and the princess didn’t await an answer before she rose up from her seat and walked over to the far side of the room, to the door that led outside.

The little balcony Rarity followed her out to was a sanctuary within a sanctuary. The wafting scent of blooming wildflowers struck her, a pleasant bonus to the concealing foliage that grew around them on the nearby trees. She was just glad it wasn’t her who had to prune back the thicket to keep the vines from creeping through the wrought-iron fence at the balcony’s edge, or perhaps the Princess and the plants had reached some sort of mutual understanding. “This is such a wonderful spot. If I had a place like this attached to my bedroom I might not ever leave it.”

Celestia smiled as she walked over to the little table, where a tray with a porcelain teapot was set out with all the other paraphernalia for a perfect cuppa. “Responsibility does have a few perks once in awhile.” She sat down on the far side of the table and motioned for Rarity to take the other seat by a delicate cup and saucer of the finest china. Celestia’s, by contrast, was a stained mug bearing the symbol of Luna’s cutie mark and the words ‘BEST PRINCESS’ printed on the side. “A gift. From my sister, naturally,” said Celestia when she caught sight of Rarity’s quizzical expression. The two sat enjoying the silence, interrupted only by birdsong, as Celestia’s horn glowed and the teapot began to heat up. “So how are you finding Canterlot? You and Twilight have been here for... a week now, I believe?”

“Oh, it’s been marvelous. Thanks so much for asking. It was kind of you to suggest that Twilight extend the invitation. Although I’m afraid between my meetings out in the city and hers here in the palace I’ve barely seen her at all since we arrived,” said Rarity.

“No, nor have I,” said Celestia. It took a very sensitive and refined ear to pick up the little tiny hints of concern that had slipped into her voice. “How does she seem to you these days?”

“Stressed out. Obsessing over every last detail. Burying herself in the topic with a certain manic excitement that one is uncertain how she manages to hold for the finer points of traffic regulation and garbage pickup schedules,” said Rarity. “So perfectly normal, for Twilight.”

Celestia had to chuckle at that. “True. She’s finding her way, I suppose. Being a princess is an experience that’s quite unlike any other, I’ve found.”

“If it’s not too forward, Prin... er... Celestia,” said Rarity, only just catching herself about to switch back to a more formal mode of address, “if you pulled her aside and... I don’t know how better to put it than this... taught her what she was supposed to do as a princess? How she was to know what was the right course of action in all the difficult choices she has to make? I’m sure she’d be quite receptive to the advice.”

“Yes. Yes she would,” said Celestia. The teapot began to whistle between them. “Rarity, let me ask you something. How much do you know about tea?”

Rarity didn’t even blink at the non sequitur. The princess had a way of changing the topic without changing the subject. “I enjoy it as much as the next mare, I suppose, but I’ve never taken an exceptional interest in it as a topic of study.”

“The thing I find most fascinating about it, I’d say, is that every pot you make is a little bit different.” The princess tore open a little packet full of loose green, brown, and black leaves, and a burst of odor overpowered everything else. “I know the taste of each of the components in this particular blend, certainly. I even know roughly what proportion of each has gone into this sample. Where they’ve come from. How they grew. Whether they were tended to carefully or left to fend for themselves. But I can never know everything precisely, and every so often I find that a specific mix has surprising nuances that I never expected. Every new batch is the chance to discover something new and exciting, for better or worse.”

“I... think I understand,” said Rarity, unsure she really did but gamely trying to keep up.

“Do you? Well that makes you a quicker study than myself. It took me a long time to figure that out.” Celestia looked skyward and closed her eyes, letting the sunbeams cascade over her face. “A very long time indeed. Do you know why?”


“Because I hadn’t found the right one of these,” said Celestia. She levitated a small, sparkling ball of crystalline mesh on a chain. It sparkled in the afternoon light as it lazily turned in her grip. After permitting Rarity to examine it for a moment, she gently opened it and began to pour the loose tea into it. “It’s an infuser, and I’ve tried a great many of them over the years. All sorts of metal alloys, sometimes woods, once or twice even ones made of blown glass. Each one left an imprint on the tea brewed with it. An aftertaste. Those little quirks and nuances were drowned out.”

“What sort of taste does this one have, that makes it so special?” asked Rarity.

“Ah, this one is special indeed. It took me a long time, but I finally found an infuser that adds no taste at all. A special weave of the gentlest filaments of crystal. It would be ridiculously expensive, had I not created it on my own, but for someone who brews as much tea as I do it would be worth every bit. A good infuser doesn’t strive to impose its own tastes on the tea, but rather to be absent as much as possible so it can develop on its own.”

Rarity watched her lower the tea ball into the boiling water and pondered that for a moment. “And what is this particular pot going to develop into?”

Celestia smiled. “That’s another wonderful mystery about tea. While you can guess, you can never be totally sure what it’s going to become beforehoof. It’s only when you throw it into hot water that its true strength and character is revealed. How many meetings did Twilight take with the noble court today?”

This transition back to the other thread of the conversation threw Rarity a bit more than she’d have liked to admit. “Six this morning, I believe, and several more this afternoon.”

“Yes, something like that. My finance ministers approached me in a bit of a tizzy yesterday, concerned about the budgetary impact of some of the proposals she’d requested they study. Not that she’d approved them, you understand. In fact since I allowed her to go over the kingdom’s expenses with a fine-toothed comb she’s found some very clever ways to improve and streamline things. But some of the proposals were ones that really don’t deserve consideration.”

“How, well, out there are we talking about exactly?” asked Rarity.

“That depends. What would your feelings be regarding a fifty foot tall golden fountain in Prince Blueblood’s honor?” Despite the warmth of the afternoon, Rarity felt a chill run down her spine and shuddered. “That’s what I thought. But he asked for the proposal to be studied and, well, when has Twilight met a question she felt could not be resolved by studying it?”

“Surely she’ll turn him down, though,” said Rarity. The alternative was too awful to seriously contemplate.

“Oh, I’m certain of it. After she’s consulted three artists, gotten cost estimations, drawn up an architectural survey, and written a seventy-page rebuttal that addresses the question from every possible angle. After all, she wouldn’t want to offend him.”

Rarity sighed. “Not the most effective use of her time.”

“My thoughts precisely. I believe our tea is ready.” She lifted the pot and poured a generous helping into each of their cups, blew away some of the rising steam from the surface, and took a tiny sip of hers. “What do you think?”

After she’d waited another minute for it to cool enough that she wouldn’t burn her tongue too badly, Rarity tried a bit of her own. It was good... mostly. The aftertaste wasn’t entirely pleasant. “Perfect!” she proclaimed, but her enthusiasm waned as she met Celestia’s level gaze. “A few things about it are a tad odd. And it’s a bit strong.”

“It’s a rare cup of tea that comes out entirely perfect,” said Celestia. “I won’t apologize for its strength; I like my tea as strong as possible. But there are a few things we can add to soften some of the rougher edges. Sugar?”

“Please,” answered Rarity. She looked on as Celestia took three angular, stark-white cubes from the little sugar bowl and dropped them into her cup. She watched them melt away until they were inseparable from the tea itself. Lifting it up to her lips, she tried another hesitant sip. “Much better.”

“I’m so glad to hear it,” said Celestia. They sat there quietly for a moment, enjoying the silence in one another’s company until Celestia broke it. “I’d like to bounce a few thoughts off of you, if you don’t mind listening.”

“Not at all, please do.”

“Twilight, for all that she grew up here in Canterlot, is not exactly what one would call a society mare. She hasn’t ever taken an interest in the politics or intrigue of the court, and I’ve never pushed her to. Until now.” She looked away for a moment before returning her attention to Rarity. “Right now she wants to be all things to all ponies, which I believe speaks volumes about her strength of character but is not sustainable. Somepony needs to teach her how to turn a pony away without making them feel pushed aside. How to make allies rather than just friends, and how not to make enemies unnecessarily.”

“Somepony, you say?” echoed Rarity.

“Somepony,” confirmed Celestia. “A pony she knows she can trust. A pony with an aptitude for high society and social niceties. A pony who can be open and generous with her time, should she need advice. Somepony.”

“Sounds like you have a particular mare in mind already,” said Rarity, with a grin of her own. “I do seem to be spending an awful lot of time around Canterlot these days. Not that I’m eager to give up my presence in Ponyville, you understand.”

“Of course, and I wouldn’t ask you to. You and Twilight are friends, and friends are a rare thing for princesses. That is not a dynamic I want to see changed. I just wondered if you might give her a few nudges in the right direction here and there. Perhaps accompany her to a few of the many events she’s already been roped into attending? For moral support, more than anything.”

“Moral support. And if I happened to drop a few suggestions on how to flatter a Duke or sway a Countess...”

Celestia chuckled. “I think we understand one another, then. Thank you, Rarity. Equestria... no, I find myself in your debt yet again.”

With a scoff, Rarity waved off the suggestion. “In debt to me for asking me to spend time with a good friend? Don’t be silly. It’s my pleasure.” She took another sip. “This really is very wonderful tea, you know.”

“Some of the best I’ve ever had the privilege to brew,” agreed Celestia.

They fell into quiet again, simply enjoying one another’s company as the afternoon wore away. All too soon, though, the pot was empty and both mares went back to work.